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Onnoghen: Appeal Court Withholds Judgment on Four Appeals

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Justice Walter Onnoghen has five pending appeals before the Court of Appeal in Abuja, but none of them was decided before he was convicted and removed from office by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Thursday, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.

Onnoghen filed the sixth appeal on Thursday to challenge his conviction by the CCT.

The appeals were filed within the three months the historic trial of the ex-CJN lasted.

One of the five pre-judgment appeals Onnoghen filed on March 29 to challenge the CCT’s decision to dismiss his no-case submission has not been heard as the defence and prosecution have yet to exchange briefs on it.

While four out of the six pending appeals were heard on February 27,  the Court of Appeal continues to withhold its judgments on them about seven weeks after the verdicts were reserved.

Speaking with our correspondent on Friday, one of the lawyers in Onnoghen’s legal team, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), confirmed that with the one filed on Thursday to challenge the conviction, there were six appeals relating to the trial at the Court of Appeal.

He said, “Before the judgment on Thursday, we had five appeals. But with the one filed yesterday (Thursday), we now have six appeals.

“Out of the six appeals, four have been heard, but judgments have not been delivered despite having been heard many weeks ago.”

Asked on Friday if the defence team had received the date for the judgments, Uche said, “no”.

Although the constitution gives a court a period not more than three months to deliver its judgment or ruling after the hearing of any application or a suit, Onnoghen’s legal team and aides have been expressing concerns about the delayed judgments of the Court of Appeal.

Onnoghen’s lead defence counsel in his trial at CCT, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), had in The PUNCH’s earlier report expressed disappointment with the development when responding to our correspondent’s enquiry.

He said, “We are highly disappointed that the Court of Appeal has not delivered its judgments on the appeals by the CJN despite the far-reaching constitutional implications of the appeals.

“This is a case that affects the judiciary, but things have slowed down at the Court of Appeal.”

But the prosecuting counsel, Mr Aliyu Umar (SAN), who led the Federal Government’s team to oppose the appeals at the higher court, had also in The PUNCH’s report dismissed the concerns expressed by the defence in an interview with our correspondent.

“The Court of Appeal has three months within which to give judgments, and they are still within their right, as long as they don’t exceed three months,” Umar said.

One of  Onnoghen’s four appeals already heard by the Court of Appeal challenged the jurisdiction of the CCT to hear the non-declaration of assets charges instituted against him before the CCT.

Another appeal challenged the February 23 ex parte order which President Muhammadu Buhari relied on to suspend him as the CJN  and to appoint Justice Tanko Muhammad as the acting CJN on February 25.

The third appeal challenged the CCT’s refusal to be bound by the orders made by the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court directing the tribunal to halt the CJN’s trial.

The fourth one asked the court to set aside the arrest warrant issued against him by the CCT on February 13.

On February 27, a three-man bench of the court led by Justice Steven Adah finally heard the four appeals and reserved judgments, after the cases had been previously adjourned on three occasions.

Justice Adah, who led Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson and Justice Peter Ige on the panel, said the date for the judgments would be communicated to the parties when the judgments are ready.

But seven weeks after no date for the judgment has been communicated.

The remaining two appeals yet to be heard are the ones challenging the March 28 ruling of the CCT, on Onnoghen’s no-case submission, and another challenging the judgment of the tribunal which convicted him on Thursday.

The three-man tribunal led by Danladi Umar after convicting Onnoghen, ordered his removal as the CJN and the Chairman of both the National Judicial and the Federal Judicial Service Commission.

The tribunal banned him from holding any public officer for a period of 10 years.

The tribunal also ordered the forfeiture of the money in the five bank accounts which the defendant failed to declare as part of his assets in breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

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Buhari Approves Suspension of Ex-EFCC Acting Chairman, Magu

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Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the suspension of the boss of the country’s anti-graft agency, Ibrahim Magu days after he appeared at an investigative panel.

The Nigerian Government said Magu’s suspension is to “allow for unhindered inquiry” by the panel investigating allegations of corruption against the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“EFCC Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, should take charge and oversee the activities of the Commission pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation and further directives in that regards,” Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, said in a statement on Friday.

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COVID-19: Fresh Lockdown Likely After Two Weeks – PTF

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The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Monday lamented the increasing rate of COVID-19 cases among people in government, saying it was directly impacting on governance and security in the country.

The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who stated this at the task force press briefing in Abuja, also said the possibility of ordering a fresh total lockdown to curtail further spread of the virus could not be ruled out.

The SGF, who advised prominent Nigerians to take COVID-19 protocols seriously, said the virus does not respect status.

Mustapha’s warning came amid rising cases of COVID-19 among state governors and other prominent Nigerians.  Recently state governors, including David Umahi of Ebonyi, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and their Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi  Akeredolu, contracted the virus.

Warning people in authority, the SGF said,  “Of recent, we have witnessed a high rate of positive cases especially among people in authority. This has a direct impact on governance and security of our nation. We urge that vigilance and care should be exhibited by all Nigerians, irrespective of status. This virus does not discriminate and the PTF shall keep sustaining its sensitisation messaging.”

When asked if the task force would be considering a fresh lockdown in the face of what it observed as disregard for guidelines, Mustapha said events of coming weeks would determine the next line of action.

He said, “We will not speculate on what will happen in future but we will protect the lives of Nigerians.

“To achieve that, if it means to lock down again, we will not shy away from that responsibility. We will recommend to the President who will look at the report and take a decision on our recommendation. What happens in the next two three weeks will determine what we will do.”

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Cross River Finally Joins the Fray As Nigeria Records 575 New COVID-19 Cases

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has announced 575 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 29,286.

Nine deaths were recorded from the virus on Monday bringing the total number of confirmed deaths from the virus to 654.

There was an increase in the number of confirmed cases reported Monday compared to what was reported on Sunday (544).

The health agency in a tweet Monday night said the 575 new cases were reported in 20 states including Lagos, Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), Delta, Edo, Ogun, Katsina, Bayelsa, Rivers, Borno, Plateau, Ondo, Oyo, Kwara, Osun, Enugu, Nasarawa, Abia, Cross River, Kaduna and Ekiti.

All the reporting states already had at least a case of the virus.

As of the time of reporting, all 36 states and the FCT have recorded at least a case of the disease.

NCDC has officially recorded the confirmed cases reported in Cross River, after days of controversies on the cases.

Lagos remains the epicentre for the disease in the country while Zamfara has not reported any new confirmed case in the past 48 days.

“Till date, 29, 286 cases have been confirmed, 11, 828 cases have been discharged and 654 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory,” the NCDC stated.

The 575 new cases were reported from 20 states: Lagos – 123, FCT – 100, Delta – 58, Edo – 52, Ogun – 42, Katsina – 24, Bayelsa – 23, Rivers – 22, Borno – 19, Plateau – 18, Ondo – 18, Oyo – 17, Kwara – 15, Osun – 13, Enugu – 9, Nasarawa – 7, Abia – 6, Cross River – 5, Kaduna – 3 and Ekiti – 1.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Nigeria in February, NCDC said, 152,952 samples have been tested.

As of the time of reporting, there are 16,804 active cases of COVID-19 in the country, while 11,828 have recovered and have been discharged.

A breakdown of the 29,286 confirmed cases shows that Lagos State has so far reported 11, 367 cases, followed by FCT – 2,281, Oyo – 1,530, Edo – 1,435, Delta – 1,285, Kano – 1,268, Rivers – 1,205, Ogun – 1,047, Kaduna – 868, Katsina – 628, Borno – 574, Gombe – 520, Bauchi – 518, Ebonyi – 503, Ondo – 474, Plateau – 454, Abia – 391, Enugu – 381, Imo – 352, Jigawa – 318, Kwara – 284, Bayelsa – 268, Nasarawa – 232, Osun – 178, Sokoto – 153, Niger – 122, Akwa Ibom – 112, Adamawa – 99, Benue – 97, Kebbi – 84, Zamfara – 76, Anambra – 73, Yobe – 61, Ekiti – 45, Taraba- 22, Kogi – 5, and Cross River – 5.

While confirmed cases of the virus have continued to increase in the country, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said the government is trying to boost overall COVID-19 sample collection, by preparing all public and private hospitals nationwide to become collection hospitals sites.

This, he said will require working with state governments to identify the facilities and the space within them, to conduct training for the personnel selected and supply both PPEs and sample collection kits, as well as the logistics to go around to recover test samples.

“If logistics around sample collection and delivery to test sites are better organised, a lot more will be achieved.

“However, the more we test, the more confirmed cases we shall find, of which the vulnerable will have to be prioritised for admission to treatment centres, even if they are not yet showing symptoms,” he added.

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